Author Archive

O.W.L. “Of Wondrous Legends”

Of Wondrous Legends is one of the holy grails of unknown acid folk/folk-rock.  As the story goes, Stephen Titra had played in various local Chicago groups, the most popular being the Uncalled Four (traditional folk), Rhythm’s Children (garage folk-rock) and of course, the legendary jam band Mountain Bus.  Titra left Mountain Bus just before the group gained serious traction, eventually releasing their great Dead-inspired rural psych LP from 1971.  Of Wondrous Legends was recorded at Universal Recording Inc. in 1971.  Titra tried shopping the final product around to labels such as Elektra, Fantasy, A&M, Capital and RCA but there were no takers.  Many of the record label A&R reps found O.W.L’s music hard to market, claiming the music was not commercial enough and that no one song on the LP stood out as a potential single.  This music is hard to categorize as it doesn’t fit into any comfortable niche.  The only reason this music was reissued is because Dawson Prater found one of the few pressings (maybe the only pressing!) of O.W.L in a Chicago thift store in the mid 2000’s.

The O.W.L. project sounds nothing like Mountain Bus.  Titra had been playing many of these songs live as early as 1967-1968.  By the time he entered the studio many of his creations were fully developed and ready to record.  Of Wondrous Legends holds a midground between the Left Banke (think “Shadows Breaking Over My Head” ) and Pearls Before Swine’s superb The Use Of Ashes LP.  There are no sitars, psychedelic effects, feedback, crazed electric guitar solos or distorted vocals.  Titra, vocals and guitars, is backed by a host of other musical instruments which include vibes, marimba, flute, alto, cello, drums, bass, piano, moog, mandolin and assorted horns.  If anything, the album’s production gives it a psychedelic feel.

The album is very strong and highly recommended to those who are into “progressive folk.”  “Upon The Wings Of Gabriel” and “A Tale Of A Crimson “Knight” are powerful slices of acid folk that have spacey production values – these tracks are not to be missed by psych fans.  “Be Alive” is what the Left Banke might have sounded like had they progressed into the early 70s albeit with more of a folk-rock approach to their music.  O.W.L.’s most progressive piece, the dreamy eight and a half minute “Midnight Carnival,” is another intricate piece of music whose lyrics deal with unity and chaos.  Finally, “Sunsets Of Smiles,” the closing track, is a very pretty folk song that feels much less produced when compared to the numbers that precede it.

Overview:  Many of the chamber orchestrations are complex, giving O.W.L.’s music a lush, arty feel.  This is certainly a unique, one of a kind album. The production is amazing but Titra’s vocals, arrangements and songwriting ability are also top notch.  4 out of 5 stars – excellent music and an important discovery.

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“Be Alive”

:D Reissue | 2008 | Locust | buy ]

INDEX “INDEX”

INDEX  were a popular local psych rock group from Grosse Pointe, an affluent suburb outside of the Detroit, Michigan area.  Their debut album, commonly referred to as “The Black Album,” was released in December of 1967.  The group consisted of drummer Jim Valice and guitarists Gary Francis and John Ford.  150 original LPs were pressed on DC Records, making this album very rare and super expensive.

“The Black Album” was recorded in mono using a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This primitive, underproduced recording technique has only added to the album’s mysterious, acid drenched mystique.  Gary Francis played a Gibson 12 string electric guitar on most of the album’s tracks, which were recorded in the ballroom of the Ford Estate.  Of the 9 tracks, 4 are instrumentals while the remaining 5 tracks were recorded with vocal arrangements.  Most of the album’s tracks are quality originals although INDEX adds some interesting basement-garage-raga-surf sounds to well known standards such as “Eight Miles High,” “You Keep Me Hangin On” and “John Riley.”  “Eight Miles High” is probably INDEX’s best known track, being full of superb raga guitar work and downbeat amateur vocals.  Other than the Byrds’ original, this is probably the best version of this song I’ve heard but kudos to English band East of Eden, who recorded a very fine unreleased take of “Eight Miles High” in 1969.  “Feedback,” another popular track that received limited airplay back in the late 60s, is an explosive, feedback laden monster (instrumental) that sounds like the Velvet Underground circa 1968.  Other fine tracks are the acid surf instro “Israeli Blues,” psychedelic folk-rockers “Fire Eyes” and “Rainy, Starless Night” and the wah-wah crazed “Turquoise Feline.”  INDEX is without doubt one of the classic “must own”  American psych albums.

Comparisons are hard to draw upon because INDEX doesn’t sound like anything I have heard before.  The group name check The Who, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix as influences but the Velvet Underground and Dick Dale can also be heard in the INDEX’s unique sound.   Vinyl reissues have been around for years but are somewhat expensive.  Lion Productions recently released a fine 2 disc set which includes INDEX’s two official albums along with some unreleased studio material.

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“Feedback”

:D Reissue | 2fer | 2011 | Lion Productions | buy ]

Addie Pray “Late For The Dance”

Addie Pray, otherwise known as Bill Lincoln, was part of an American (LA/Texas) rock n roll group called Euphoria.  In 1969, to little fanfare or label support, Capital Records released their explosive sole album, A Gift From Eurphoria.  This disc is commonly referred to as one of the best LPs from the period –  it’s that good.  After this great album, the main members of Euphoria, Wesley Watts and Bill Lincoln, went on to several other interesting studio/side projects.  One of them was this unreleased album that Bill Lincoln quietly recorded in 1970/1971, titled Late For The Dance.

Late For The Dance doesn’t have the wild guitar playing of Wesley Watts nor Euphoria’s over-the-top 60s experimentation.   Replacing these sounds are quiet country-rockers and fragile, broken folk-rock songs.  It’s all good listening too.  Late For The Dance’s closest reference (in production, sound and style) is probably the Everly Brothers’ Stories We Could Tell, a record that was also released around the same time – 1972.  One of the album’s better cuts, “Kentucky”, even sounds like something that would have come off Stories We Could Tell or 1968’s Roots.   Two of the album’s hard rocking tracks, “Train” and “Will You Miss Me?” are clear highlights that have a care free country-rock ambiance that brings Poco to mind.

The low key songs are the real meat of this fine disc.  “Free,”  “Sad Eyed Broken Man,” “Wings In The Wind,” “It Just Keeps Rollin,” and the gospel tinged “Sail On” are all quiet pleasures – excellent tracks that are on par with any big time country-rock productions you care to name.  So while this disc isn’t as experimental as A Gift From EuphoriaLate For The Dance is a really good, straightfoward country-rock record that deserved an official release back in 1970/1971.

CD Baby offers Late For The Dance in cd and mp3 formats.  If one were to jugde Euphoria on their early garage era singles, unreleased material, the A Gift From Euphoria album and the various solo/collaborations of Bill Lincoln and Wesley Watts, you could easily make a case for this group being one of America’s great lost 60s bands.

Also, here’s an interesting interview (via WPKN) with Bill Lincoln, regarding the Euphoria story and the Addie Pray album.  Bill Lincoln put together Late For The Dance with the help of his wife.

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“Free”

:D Reissue | 2008 | Euphoria Records | buy ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]

Bob Carpenter “Silent Passage”

Bob Carpenter’s Silent Passage was a Warner Brothers release from 1984. Supposedly, the sessions for this album were cut between 1971 and 1973 but the Riverman Records reissue OBI strip dates Silent Passage at 1975.  Artists as diverse as Tom Rush, Billy Joe Shaver and Emmylou Harris have covered Carpenter’s material.

Bob Carpenter’s rustic, gritty vocals will probably be an acquired taste but don’t let this deter you from listening to this fine album. There’s a certain spirtual vibe that cloaks Silent Passage, also, it’s not the cheeriest record but not many country-rock albums are. The lyrics usually deal with depression, isolation, loss and the occasional religious overtone but these themes are common among many early 70s country rock/Americana/singer songwriter releases. It’s closest cousin is probably Bob Martin’s classic Midwest Farm Disaster.

Key tracks are the great, eerie Americana of “Gypsy Boy,” a spiritual highlight titled “Morning Train,” the desolate “Down Along the Border,” and the depressing but strangely optimistic “The Believer.” Some tracks such as “Miracle Man” and “Old Friends” offer up a more commerical rock sound while “First Light” is a folk gem with strings and organ.

Overall this is a very good, overlooked LP with many strengths. A quiet gem for the folk-rock and country-rock fans.

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“Gypsy Boy”

:D Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | buy here ]
:) Original | 1975 | Warner Reprise | search ebay ]

The Easybeats “The Shame Just Drained”

The Shame Just Drained was a collection of Easybeats material that slipped out on vinyl in 1977.  The album contained 15 unreleased tracks from the group’s mid 60s prime, 1966-1968.  Most of these songs date from aborted studio sessions with Glyn Johns (Central Sound Studio Sessions – 1968-) and Shel Talmy (Olympic Studios Sessions – 1967).

There were many fine Aussie rock groups in the 1960s but none of them exploded onto the scene with as much excitement or anticipation as the Easybeats. Their live performances and chart smashes firmly established the Australian rock n roll scene. They recorded several fine albums (Friday On My Mind is probably their best) and waxed many classic Oz singles throughout their fabled career. Late 60s tracks such as “Land Of Make Believe,” “Peculiar Hole In The Sky,” “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” and “Come In You’ll Get Pneumonia” were as good as anything being released in the UK or US at the time. Then there was “Good Times,” a song which famously caused Paul McCartney to pull his car over and ring the BBC to ask for a replay. While some of their best songs were recorded in the late 60s, the groups final albums, Vigil and Friends, are considered major disappointments.

By 1969, drugs and management issues had reduced the Easybeats to a bland good-time pop group, lacking the muscle and adventure of previous years. While their sharp demise was sad, when the Easybeats were on, they were surely one of the best.

The Shame Just Drained strongly recalls the Kinks from Something Else, or more accurately, The Great Lost Kinks Album – a mishmash of aborted late 60’s sessions and raw, mid 60’s material. Great power pop numbers such as “Wait a Minute” and the fiery “Baby I’m a Comin” hold hands with observational Ray Davies-like numbers “I’m on Fire”, “Mr. Riley of Higginbottom and Clive” and “Kelly” – this is the late 60’s Easybeats at their finest. Other songs such as “Amanda Storey”, “We’ll Make It Together” and “Where Old Men Go” are also excellent, featuring more a psych pop vibe with mellotrons, tinkling piano and sophisticated arrangements.

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“Baby I’m A Comin'”

:D Reissue | 2005 | Repertoire | buy here ]
:) Original | 1977 | Albert | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Bread “Bread”

Bread were known as one of the premier 70s soft rock acts and rightly so, as they produced some of the best music that genre has to offer.  This debut, released by Elektra in 1969, is much different than those early 70s records.  Bread, is closer to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s debut album (also from 1969), combining Buffalo Springfield and Byrds folk-rock influences with a Brit pop feel that recalls late period Beatles or Paul McCartney’s early solo work.

The album is an underrated delight.  Every song is rock solid, displaying a diverse range of popular rock styles from the time, such as lite psych, folk-rock, country-rock and soft pop.  David Gates is usually thought of as the master craftsmen in Bread but Robb Royer and James Griffin contribute fine material to Bread.  Songs like the powerful “Move Over” (there’s fiddle on this Griffin penned classic) suggest Bread could rock hard when they wanted to while other great tracks like “London Bridge” are dressed up with moog synthesizer – it’s all about the fine production details on this album.  “Could I,” “You Can’t Measure The Cost,” and “Look At Me” are pop gems, displaying leftover psych residuals from the previous two years.   “Don’t Shut Me Out,” along with many of the album’s songs, seemed to have obvious radio potential – hooks galore, strong songwriting and lovely harmonies.

Vinyl copies are fairly easy to find.  Bread can only be bought on cd as part of a 5 disc box set which will set you back about $20 (not a bad deal at all).  One of the great debuts from 1969 – don’t miss out on this one.

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“Move Over”

:) Original | 1969 | Elektra | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Holy Mackerel “The Holy Mackerel”

Paul Williams first pop group was the LA based Holy Mackerel.  While he would go on to greater success writing classic pop hits for Three Dog Night and the Carpenters, the music he recorded with the Holy Mackerel is more adventurous and psychedelic.  The group’s only album was released by Warner Brothers in 1968.  While it wasn’t a commercial success, the LP features some great material.

The best tunes on The Holy Mackerel are on par with great Millennium and Sagittarus tracks.  Sure, there’s two or three weak tracks throughout the album but much of The Holy Mackerel is given over to quality stuff.  “Scorpio Red”, “Wildflowers”, “The Secret of Pleasure”, “10,000 Men” and “1984” are excellent dreamy soft psych tracks.  “1984” is probably the album’s magical highlight although “Wildflowers” features interesting distorted vocals and plenty of swirling sitar.  Many of the songs on the LP are psychedelic folk-rock but there’s a few country-rockers (“Somewhere in Arizona” and “The Golden Ghost of Love”), pure folk (“The Lady is Waiting”), and bouncy Nilsson-like pop (“Bitter Honey”) dispersed throughout ; these cuts are vintage late 60s LA pop.  There’s a lot of ideas at work here but the group manages to pull it off, making The Holy Mackerel an artistic success.  Highly recommended to those who appreciate intelligent sunshine pop/soft psych sounds.

Now Sounds reissued The Holy Mackerel in 2010 with plenty of extras.  Also worth checking out is Paul Williams 1970 collaboration with Roger Nichols titled We’ve Only Just Begun.

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“Bitter Honey”

:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Reprise | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2005 | Collector’s Choice | buy here ]

Hickory Wind “Hickory Wind”

This group took their name from the classic Byrds/Gram Parsons song.  Hickory Wind, from Indiana, were fairly young musicians when they cut this mini gem in 1969.  If you consider the limited studio technology on hand, Hickory Wind came up big, with a very good country-rock garage psych private press LP.  Initially, when you look at the record, it resembles one of those male/female folk duo LPs or maybe a private press christian rock album (note the small crucifix at the bottom of the record and the amatuer illustration).  Thankfully, it’s neither of those.   There are mild Buffalo Springfield, Byrds and Beatles echoes throughout the album but closer, more accurate references might be  Riley or Spur.

Most of the albums tracks are strong but only a handful qualify as excellent.   “Father Come With Me” and the bizarre spoken word number “Mr. Man” give the album its psychedelic folk-rock sheen – both are great tracks with lots of organ and moody garage vocals.  “Time and Changes,” a pounding garage rocker with sizzling fuzz would soon be recut by B.F. Trike, which was essentially a later version of Hickory Wind.  In some circles, “Time and Changes” is considered a classic.  The remaining cuts have a strong country-rock/folk-rock flavor.  The bare bones production of Hickory Wind gives these compositions a unique quality that makes this album memorable – no albums I know of have quite this sound.  “Country Boy,” “The Loner,” “I Don’t Believe,” “Judy,” and “Maybe Tomorrow” are well worth hearing, all eerie slices of early country-rock/Americana.

I’ve read other reviews that describe Hickory Wind as only half a good album or not that good at all.  Don’t believe this.  Hickory Wind is a fine album – consistent throughout with lots of interesting twists and turns.  Check out the recent Beatball reissue as original vinyl LPs will be impossible to find (just 100 original Gigantic label LPs were pressed).  Rockadelic would release B.F. Trike’s only album, which is also a good post psychedelic hard rock album.

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“Country Boy”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Beatball | buy here ]
:) Vinyl | 1969 | Gigantic | search ebay ]

The Golden Earrings “Winter Harvest”

Winter Harvest has 14 tracks from one of Holland’s most popular classic rock groups, The Golden Earrings.  These songs were cut in 1966/1967, during the group’s forgotten early phase.  While all 60s Golden Earrings albums are pretty strong, Winter Harvest is probably the most consistent of the bunch.  While Just Earrings (1965) was a very enjoyable beat album, this disc sees the group branching out into soul, folk-rock and hard rock/freakbeat – think Happy Jack, Rubber Soul, Face to Face or From the Beginning (The Small Faces).

The band delivers Winter Harvest with a special confidence and maturity.  This is one of the essential Nederbeat/Dutch 60s albums, along with releases by the Outsiders, the Q65, the Ro-d-y’s, Les Baroques, Sandy Coast and Group 1850.  No two songs sound alike and the performances are air tight.  My favorite cuts are the tough garage rockers “You’ve Got the Intention to Hurt Me” and the superb “Baby Don’t Make Me Nervous.”  There’s plenty of choatic guitar work, moody vocals and swelling organ on these two gems.  Other worthy cuts are the Beatles/Kinks influenced “In My House”, the blue-eyed soul of “Smoking Cigarettes” and two catchy folk rockers, “Lionel the Miser” and “Happy and Young Together.”  Another great cut, “You Break My Heart,” stands out for its harpsichord playing and ethereal ambience – it’s one of the prettiest songs in the Golden Earrings’ catalog.  The whole album is good all the way through; a hidden gem of mid 60s rock n roll.

I must admit, it took me a while to warm up to Winter Harvest.  At first I thought it was a little derivative of the British Invasion groups, which it is – those groups were highly influential in their day.  That being said, the overall quality shines through and it’s an album I throw on quite often.  The most recent RPM reissue includes relevant singles from around the time this album was recorded.

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“Baby Don’t Make Me Nervous”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Polydor | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2009 | RPM | buy here ]

Little Feat “Dixie Chicken”

Dixie Chicken (1973) is when Little Feat came up with their signature sound.  Many fans cite this as the group’s best LP.  I’ve always thought their debut was one of the best albums from the time (Sailin’ Shoes is also superb), so I’m not really sure which side of the fence I stand on.

Dixie Chicken is a more produced (rich, full sound), laid back affair when compared to the raw eccentricity of those first two albums.   Most of the tracks are Lowell George originals but to give you an idea of the influences at work here, the group covers Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.”  This means there’s a strong New Orleans aroma throughout Dixie Chicken.  Classics like the title track and “Two Trains Running” while great songs, feature soulful backup vocalists, which make them sound a bit more produced than the group’s earlier efforts.  That being said, this is certainly one hell of an album – one of the defining roots rock discs.  On Dixie Chicken, the group incorporated funky, almost danceable rhythms within many of the song structures while other tunes such as the excellent “Kiss It Off,” replete with ominous synth or “Juliette,” feature dark, intense vibes.  Dixie Chicken is also notable for featuring one of Little Feat’s greatest songs, the much loved “Fat Man In The Bathtub.”

Impassioned vocals, great lyrics, piano, slide guitar and a rock steady beat make this track one of classic rock’s great legends – there’s nothing like it.  My picks are the acoustic (and slide guitar) piece “Roll Um Easy” and the jumpin’ “Fool Yourself.”  Both songs have the feel and style of Little Feat’s earlier triumphs.  All told, Little Feat came up with their third masterpiece in as many years.  Essential.

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“Kiss It Off”

:) Original Vinyl | Warner Bros | 1973 | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]